'We could not have got a better deal': New NAFTA means more work, more security, says expert

'If someone says that we can improve it, I challenge them to quantify it,' says Flavio Volpe

Posted: January 28, 2020

APMA president Flavio Volpe says the CUSMA, also known as the new NAFTA deal, will benefit supply chains, rather than automotive manufacturers. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The president of the association that represents Canadian automotive parts manufacturers said it's almost impossible to expect a better agreement than the new NAFTA deal currently before the House of Commons.

Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association (APMA), said he challenges anyone to find a way to improve the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).


"If someone says that we can improve it, I challenge them to quantify it," he said. "I'm happy to have a public debate with anybody on that piece."

CUSMA is a trilateral trade agreement intended to succeed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was established by the continent's three largest economic powers 26 years ago. 

In addition to sections establishing trade rules for dairy products, intellectual property and labour, CUSMA also features modernized rules governing the automobile sector. 

According to Volpe, the agreement ensures "every car that's made in the North American region is going to have 25 per cent more content in it locally."

He said that statistic will translate into billions of dollars more incremental purchases from Canadian-based automotive parts supply shops.

Deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland urged opposition lawmakers on Monday to support the CUSMA. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

"There's 100,000 people that work in the auto supply sector in Canada — 95 per cent of them between Windsor and Toronto," said Volpe. 


"When those companies are bidding on $6 billion to $8 billion more activity, it means human beings have to be part of the production, and it means more work and more security for the 100,000 people that are currently in [the industry]."

He explained that the new agreement represents "the biggest single boost to the fortunes of the Canadian auto supply sector in our history."

Though Volpe said the agreement won't necessarily prevent the elimination of something like the third shift at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles minivan factory in Windsor, it will translate into purchases within existing supply chains. 

"The benefit will really accrue to the supply chain, rather than to the carmakers themselves," he said. 

In development for over three years, Mexico ratified CUSMA in June 2019, while the agreement was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in December and the U.S. Senate on Jan. 16. 


Canada's Liberal government is unable to pass CUSMA without support from other parties in the minority Parliament. 

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland used a news conference on Monday to urge opposition lawmakers to support the new agreement. She said it's time to end the economic uncertainty that lingered during lengthy negotiations between the U.S. and Mexico. 

Volpe added that CUSMA critics had three years to voice their opposition to the agreement. 

"If you have changes, adjustments, improvements, reductions you want to make to the deal, you do not have that luxury," he said. 

Listen to Flavio Volpe discuss the CUSMA with Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre:

"If you're going to vote not to ratify, you're going to put Canada in peril of not being part of this deal."


Volpe said claims suggesting the agreement was drawn up by a majority government in secret are also misleading. 

"This actually was the most open negotiation ever conducted, or at least since I've been alive … by a Canadian government," he said. "Industry was invited to every round. Between the rounds, we worked with officials around the clock."

Volpe said he has personally conducted more than 560 interviews on CUSMA over the past three years. "I don't think anybody's stupid enough to vote it down, to be honest," said Volpe. "I'm not sure that … I can say whether they'd be stupid enough to say things that rattle the market, and I think that's where we need to be careful."

With files from Afternoon Drive